#AtoZChallenge – Exoskeletons, in sci-fi and now


Time for E in my Sci-Fi themed A-to-Z Challenge!

For E, I’ll go with something more grounded in reality than yesterday’s post – exoskeletons. Insects, arachnids, and many other invertebrate critters have had exoskeletons for a very long time, giving them some measure of protection against predators. For humans, exoskeletons can serve both medical and military purposes – and both kinds were used in science-fiction before being realized.


In fiction, the first medical use of a human exoskeleton came around 1968, in A Specter is Haunting Texas, by Fritz Leiber. In this novel, people who grow up in low gravity environments have to wear powered suits when they come to Earth – their bodies are too weak for regular gravity. Powered military armour makes appearances in many works of fiction, perhaps most famously in Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein.


In the real world, many companies are developing exoskeletons for purposes both benign and military. There are suits designed for heavy lifting, and to help rehabilitate people who have lost mobility. The main problem right now is packing enough battery power into a suit to keep it going for long periods without a power cable.

Oh, that suit pictured above? It’s made by a Japanese company called Cyberdyne, and the suit is called Hal. Way to doom us all, guys …

In my current fiction:

I made an offhand reference to exoskeletons in Far Flung as common equipment used for helping the physically disabled in the future.

More about exoskeletons:

BBC News article about real-world exoskeletons

Wikipedia on exoskeletons